Shopping trolleys will be used to help save people from suffering a stroke by identifying irregular heartbeats, as part of a new medical trial.
Researchers are recruiting up to 2,000 people to use trolleys which have sensors attached to their handle so they can be monitored while shopping at high street shops.
It is hoped the sensors can detect irregular heartbeats which lead to a condition known as atrial fibrillation. It causes blood clots to form in the heart and increases the risk of stroke.
Around 1.2 million people are estimated to have atrial fibrillation in the UK and the problem can be spotted with a simple pulse check.
Check-up while you shop
This relies, however, on patients noticing something unusual about their heartbeat and visiting their GP for an assessment.
The scientists from Liverpool John Moores University hope that observing so many participants will allow them to single out individuals who do not realise they have the condition.
Ian Jones, a professor of cardiovascular nursing at the university who is leading the study, said: "Around 30,000 people suffer a stroke each year as a consequence of a treatable, but often undiagnosed, irregular heartbeat.
"Using proven sensor technology, we are intending to check people’s heartbeat while they shop, and in doing so, we estimate that we will save between 20 and 40 people suffering a stroke in the future."
As part of the study, the recruits will have to place their hands on the trolley handle with embedded sensors for at least 20 to 30 seconds for their heartbeat to be detected. The data gathered from the sensors will then be analysed by a team of experts.
The participants who are identified as having irregular heartbeats will be referred to a consultant cardiologist who specialises in atrial fibrillation.
The patients will then be assessed and given medication if they are at risk of stroke, or otherwise get appropriate lifestyle advice.
Professor Jones said of the new study: "This is a feasibility study so there are some things we will learn along the way. As a concept, this has the potential to save thousands of lives.
Sainsbury's /Lloyds Pharmacy
“The public have been amazing; very keen to give it a go so we are a long way ahead having tested 500 in the first eight days.”
The trials are taking place at Sainsbury's and Lloyds Pharmacy stores in Rice Lane, Liverpool and Upton Bypass, Wirral, in May.
The team will then move to stores in East Prescott Rd and James Rd in Liverpool in June and July to continue with the research.
They worked with sensor experts in the LJMU School of Civil Engineering under Professor Andy Shaw to modify the trolleys.